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Computer Security: Four gifts for your Christmas break


Just as physical threats don’t stop outside working hours, CERN’s annual closure won’t put a stop to cybersecurity attacks in the coming weeks. The number of attacks might even increase, as attackers* are aware that people are more relaxed during this time, less alert, probably on holiday, or blissfully ignorant of the possibility of evil during a time that’s supposed to be peaceful (but unfortunately rarely is). CERN remains on the attackers’ radar and we must ensure that our protective systems are up and running, improving and enhancing ─ as also suggested by the recent audit of CERN’s cybersecurity (more on that in a future Bulletin article). 

So, with the Christmas period fast approaching, let’s have a look at what’s been put under the tree by Security Claus and his protective elves (assuming you’ve behaved well and deserve it):

  • Xorlab “ActiveGuard” and Microsoft “MDO” mail filtering. The basic bring-along: chocolate, pralines and bonbons. But, unlike sugary treats, ActiveGuard and MDO are a protective diet, filtering away all malicious and spammy emails. Having two quarantine portals may seem unnecessary, but two is better than none. It’s like chocolate: you can never have enough.
  • Threatray and ESET anti-malware. An awesome gift card for you and your family: download CERN’s new anti-malware software for free and install and run it on your personal laptop, Macbook and at home. We’ve already deployed the sophisticated Threatray inspector on all CERN-managed Windows devices, and ESET will come along next year to protect your work even better.
  • Multifactor protection. Like ties and socks, this may not be your favourite present, but it’s very effective: the silver bullet you need to protect your account against password theft/loss/disclosure.
  • Gitlab security scanners. For those who like puzzles (and do programming): the Gitlab security scanners (static application security testing, or SAST, as well as a module for finding clear text passwords and other credentials) provide you with essential means to identify misconfigurations, vulnerabilities and bugs. We run them for you – all you need to do is check their output. And put the puzzle pieces in place.

With those four lovely and protective presents, we wish you a calm and relaxing annual closure, joyous festivities and a happy new year. Stay healthy and safe. And thanks in advance if we can count on you to help keep CERN secure in 2024 as well! Cheers!

* Not to mention the friendly hackers from the “German Chaos Computer Club” who hold their “Chaos Communication Congress” at the end of each year and, unsurprisingly, regularly knock on CERN’s firewall, probing us for vulnerabilities … Ho, ho, ho!


Do you want to learn more about computer security incidents and issues at CERN? Follow our Monthly Report. For further information, questions or help, check our website or contact us at Computer.Security@cern.ch.